Using a forum system for CLUG (was Re: Fw: [clug] Flirting Techniiques For Men (Paul Wayper))

Daniel Pittman daniel at
Sat May 2 07:42:18 GMT 2009

David Schoen <neerolyte at> writes:

> Hi Dan,

G'day David.  I generally prefer Daniel, but am not religious about it. ;)

> Thanks for your great response, more below.

Thank you for trying to think about how the CLUG list, and community,
can be improved.  It is good to see people actually think about that.

> 2009/5/2 Daniel Pittman <daniel at>
>> David Schoen <neerolyte at> writes:
>> <snip>
>> That is kind of sad — not in your specific case, but because it says
>> that there is a perception that the group is rather elitist. :/
> This wasn't a reflection on this group in particular, I had a number
> of bad experiences just a few individuals on a couple of newsgroups,
> but once bitten it's hard to just go on asking questions that are so
> obvious to everyone else.

Well, it is hardly unknown for LUGs to contain people with a ... nasty
bent, or whatever.  It is, truly, part of life, and worse, something
that the Internet tends to enable because it distances us from seeing
the people we communicate with as actually human...

Anyway, thanks for clarifying.


>> However, GMANE do archive public lists, and do make available an RSS
>> feed of the content, if that is what people really want.
> I only mentioned this in passing seeing as someone else had asked
> about it earlier. I wouldn't use it but I'm all for giving people the
> ability to use things the way they want to.

*nod* Likewise, I mention it because the GMANE model can be quite
valuable compared to mailing list subscriptions in some cases; I use it
myself[1] for that reason, although not for RSS.


>> The second is that your model embeds privilege and power into the
>> system, as well as removing the requirement of being at least
>> pseudonymous for participation in the community.
>> This, generally speaking, discourages community and replaces it with a
>> brief period in which people can establish themselves followed by a long
>> period in which the "old guard" have power, while new participants are
>> relegated to the role of hanger-on in a much more formal way.
>> This is made worse by the habit of forum packages to assign "ranks"
>> based on participation in the forum: it substitutes the passage of time
>> for any actual skill, resulting in acknowledged experts in the field
>> being descibed (by the software) as "lowly neophites", while people who
>> have little real skill but plenty of time are "acknowledged masters".[2]
> Some (and yes I admit not all) of this would be solvable by keeping
> the process of setting up and maintaining a forum as open as possible.

In theory, I agree with you.  In practice, the best case is that the
maintenance becomes an unending chore with little reward and a regular
round of undeserved accusations of being part of the "cabal" who keep
power themselves.

In the usual case the accusations are less undeserved, but the rest of
it stays more or less the same.

> We could have votes, with whoever cares to share their opinion, on
> what features should be enabled, what sections should be available and
> whatever else anyone wants to suggest, complain or otherwise be vocal
> about about.


> Also being a LUG we could probably have a few people get together and
> put in new features, e.g. don't like having "rigid sections" maybe we
> should have tags for topics and you can opt to either always receive
> or always not receive topics with certain tags.
> I know this will never be perfect, but I do believe as long as the
> process is kept open so that everyone can see what's going on and
> anyone can get involved I think it should be at least worthwhile.

Well, I certainly applaud the goal.  I never got my social experiment
off the ground before private mailing lists were supplanted by
LiveJournal, MySpace and Facebook, but the idea of a list which started
with a strict voting rule on any rule change had some appeal.

Anyway, I don't know if you have administered this sort of forum before,
and perhaps I simply had bad luck in my choice of audience.  Regardless,
you are right that most of these issues can be addressed.

The trick is to address them. ;)

>> Finally, you also have the lesser technical problem that using a web
>> based forum is going to drive away technically skilled people because
>> it increases the cost of dealing with CLUG.


>> When I am faced with a web forum I am stuck: unlike a mailing list,
>> where I am handed the data and allowed to deal with it however I please,
>> a we forum requires me to use the web interface to that information.


>> I am also forced to use the web system to respond: I can't, easily,
>> use Emacs to edit my response, cross-refrence with my notes on
>> various topics, edit the message I am composing or otherwise
>> integrate it outside the web browser.
> I'll admit I've never seen anything that would solve this (at least
> not out of the box).

Neither have I, or y'all would be sick of my advocating it every time
the vaguest mention of a forum showed up anywhere in the universe. ;)

> How about something custom though? Perhaps it would be possible to
> embed a code in emails sent out and have a reply address that the
> forum can read, when the forum gets an email it works out what
> thread/username it belongs to and it just gets inserted as a normal

Yeah, absolutely.  Tracking the insertion point is actually pretty
trivial; all you have to do is manage to store enough state in 64
characters to map back to the original article.

Even dealing with spam and authentication isn't that bad, really.
All it takes is someone willing to do the work — a simple matter of
programming. ;)

For what it is worth, while I don't have the enthusiasm to write code
for it I am happy to help advise you on the technical design side (and
the quirks-of-email side, come to that) if you want to work on it.

It would hardly be the first time I had dealt with email gatewaying
issues and all. :)


>> Like elsewhere in the Open Source Community, code talks; if you think
>> that a web based forum system is going to be better for the CLUG
>> membership than a mailing list, set one up.[4]


> I will, but only if at least a couple of other list readers want to
> get involved first, preferably someone willing to help with
> development/testing if we decide that only a custom solution will do.

*nod*  One bit of advice: if you do want to do something custom, wait
until it basically works before you announce it to the world.  Nothing
turns away users like a pre-announced placeholder, in my experience. :)

Also, good for you, actually taking up the challenge.


[1]  Well, the NNTP gateway mode, rather.

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